I have posted before about the benefits of surf therapy. The group Surfers Healing, founded by Izzy and Danielle Paskowitz is just another testament (FYI: the story was from Yahoo!, I was unable to embed their video here, so I added 2 links from YouTube). If you ever get the chance to get your kids to experience this, please do! The surf, and the water in general has wonderful therapeutic benefits for autistic children. I also took a moment to send them a Twitter. Have a great summer! -Ed
Pro Surfer Israel Paskowitz Uses His Unique Expertise to Help Autistic Children
It was a summer day in 1969 on Tourmaline Canyon Beach in San Diego, when Israel “Izzy” Paskowitz fell in love with surfing. He was 6 when his father, legendary surfer Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, took him out to ride together on his board. “I will never forget that wave,” says Izzy, “it was my kick off into the tribe.” Considered the first family of surfing, Izzy is the fourth of nine children of Doc and Juliette. They lived a nomadic life in a 24-foot camper and traveled the country for roughly 23 years.
By the time of Izzy’s first surfing experience, Doc, a Stanford graduate and a doctor, had left his career to fulfill his love of travel, family and surfing. Doc believed true wisdom did not come from formal education but from life experience and surfing. The family’s journey is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, “Surfwise.”
Izzy naturally became a pro surfer. In 1983 he beat legends of the sport and soon became a world champion long-boarder. He won national and international events, including Australia’s Coke Classic Championship and the Hang Ten Classic. At the height of his career he landed a Nike cover ad standing next to Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan and Andre Agassi.
“With my beautiful wife, Danielle, by my side, I felt invincible, like I was king of the world, “ Izzy recalls. But then their second child, Isaiah, was diagnosed with autism at age 3. “It took me a long time to accept his condition, to even say the word ‘autism.’ I had the dreams of any professional athlete: that my son would be just like dad, and it wasn’t looking like that.” Izzy ran from reality and continued to travel, drink heavily and surf professionally until Danielle gave him an ultimatum: Come home to take care of his son or leave the family for good.
A contest in Hawaii in 1996 inspired the greatest and most rewarding endeavor of Izzy’s life. Isaiah, then 5, was having an uncontrollable tantrum on the beach due to sensory overload, a symptom of autism. He took Isaiah in the ocean and they paddled out together on his board through the waves, just as his father had done with him. “A calm came over him. He was loose and relaxed, and genuinely happy,” says Izzy. “He was a regular boy out there doing what I always dreamed of doing with him.”
From this magical moment, Izzy and Danielle founded Surfers Healing, a free, one-day surf camp in which professional surfers take out children with autism. Today, Surfers Healing gives 3,000 kids a year in 22 camps across the country the opportunity to feel the same calm and joy Isaiah felt.
“I am not going to find a cure,” says Izzy. “But I do know now that I can ride waves with autistic kids and we are not going to charge a penny for it. These are the best days in my life.”
- Surfing provides an escape for people with disabilities (thehandiestone.typepad.com)
- HELP THEM WIN! Surfers Healing – Autism Group (beyondautismawareness.wordpress.com)
- Surf Group Changing Lives Of Autistic Children (beyondautismawareness.wordpress.com)
Click the link to view the associated video: AUTISM IN THE WATER
Former pro surfer Keith Malloy’s latest project is making waves far beyond the surf community. His documentary “Come Hell Or High Water” is an ode to bodysurfing, not surfing, and in it he tells the story of Beau King, a young autistic boy in Hawaii who is profoundly affected by the ocean. When Beau jumps in the water with his dad, legendary bodysurfer Don King, he breaks out an enormous smile and confidence he doesn’t always show on land.
After seeing Beau’s story in the film, Australians Donna and Greg Edwards wrote Keith to share the story of their son, Kyan. Kyan, like Beau, is autistic, and after seeing Beau in Malloy’s film he made his first trip to the beach in years and jumped straight into the water. Malloy and the Edwards and King families were all united recently on HuffPost Live for an incredibly moving conversation about the ocean’s affect on some autistic children.
Sorry, the pictures won’t copy over. Please click the title above, or the link at the bottom to view the article and pics in its native form. Thanks. -Ed
There’s something about surfing.
The sport of beach boys and surfer girls has a way of bringing joy into the lives of kids with disabilities, and this was put on display Saturday morning at Vanderbilt Beach. About a thousand volunteers, surfers, kids and young adults with autism and related conditions, and spectators came out as part of Surfers for Autism’s inaugural Naples Beach Surf Festival.
“This all started when a pro surfer noticed how different his autistic son was in the water,” said Surfers for Autism founding member Jeff Adams. “The ocean is a great equalizer. And it’s not just while they’re here. The kids’ teachers and therapists say the kids are the calmest they’ve seen them” after trying surfing.
On Saturday, between two and four surfer volunteers shepherded each kid, helping them get accustomed to a paddleboard, steadying it, and putting a paddle into their hands. The young surfers did a combination of standing on the board for classic surfing, lying on the board to paddle it, and standing to paddle in the trendy paddle boarding that has become all the rage for local boarders.
Hannah Kandel of Naples, 20, who deals with autism every day, loved the chance to get out in the waves, and high-fived her helpers after taking her first turn on the board.
“This really is exciting for her, trying something new. She’s been looking forward to it all week,” said Mary Lee Kandel, Hannah’s mother. Hannah high-fived her helpers and family members as she came out of the water, and was ready to go back for more.
Nathan and Nancy Dearborn brought Andrew Warner to the beach for the event, and watched proudly as he rode the waves — or actually wavelets. This was the Naples beach, after all.
“Look at him, he’s doing great,” said Nathan. “Andrew’s not even able to speak, but they’ve got him standing up, forwards and sideways. He’s catching his own waves.” Nathan Dearborn has worked as a surfing instructor in Costa Rica, and said the waves at Vanderbilt Beach were perfect for the day’s purpose.
They would have been even more perfect without the unwanted guests who showed up. Thousands of dead fish from a red tide event drifted offshore, and periodically washed up on the beach. Event organizers picked up the small white fish off the sand several times, but more kept appearing.
Usually the floating fish were just here and there, but at times the currents pushed together a barrier of decomposing fish that had participants avoiding the area and making feeble jokes about sushi and fish fries. The beach was crowded with families, and the surfer volunteers who stood out with their bronzed bodies.
The Surf Festival is high-energy, with music pumping, sponsor tents, and kids and volunteers heading out into the water and then giving way to the next session. The event included a raffle, with prizes up to a cruiser bike and a high-end Ron Jon paddleboard signed by CJ Hobgood, donated by Quinn Boards surf shop. Organizers also singled out the Ritz-Carlton Naples, and Sun Bums suntan lotion as key sponsors.
Volunteer Kat Luchesi of Paddle Up Fitness worked with Alexandra Cruz, 18, who didn’t let Down’s syndrome stop her from having a great time. She positively glowed with delight on her colorful surfboard, and if she slipped into the water, was ready to climb right back on and try again. She came across the state from Hollywood with her family for the event.
Surfers for Autism is based in Boca Raton, and has gone from a local charity in 2007 to hosting Surf Festivals around the world. They began the year with a surf day in Australia, and will finish in Puerto Rico in mid-November.
Sebastian Sabater, age 6, posed a little extra challenge to his handlers. He loves the water so much he can’t wait to get back in. To him, the surfboard worked great as a diving board, and as soon as volunteers Mauricio Guzman and Harmony Schultz got him standing up, he would plop right back into the Gulf. Like all the children, though, he looked to be having a great time.
The water has wonderful healing properties. For a few brief moments in 2009, with his brothers nearby, among a group of other children with Autism, I remember Mike was transformed into a fearless surfer under the guidance of Surf Pal, a charitable group that helped children on the Spectrum connect with the waves. I like to think that summer day helped Mike enjoy the beach more; he always liked the sand to dig and play in, but now he enjoys jumping waves and body surfing. If you ever get the chance to participate in ‘surf therapy’, jump at the opportunity; it is well worth it.
Jacob Wolf frowns, cups his hands over his ears to shut out the clamor of the world, and stares fixedly at the ground as he navigates the playground.
His father touches his shoulder, then holds his angelic face and waits for the 10-year-old to focus.
“What do you do on the ocean, Jacob?” Robert Wolf asks.
The frown changes to a grin.
“Surf!” he answers quickly, snapping into surfing position and waving his arms to demonstrate.
“What is the best part?”
“Riding the waves!” he crows, his arms flailing.
“And what do you say when it is over?”
Jacob answers without hesitation.
“Again!” he says.
Robert Wolf will tell you it affects physical development, too, and it’s a near miracle that Jacob can surf.
But Jacob is not alone. Every year for five years, Surfers for Autism has gathered with dozens of volunteers at Deerfield Beach and helped children with autism spectrum disorder enjoy the ocean in a way they could not have imagined.